Moray Councillors have agreed to continue their financial backing for the Elgin Business Improvement District (BID) – despite growing public disquiet over its operation.
Members of the policy and resources committee said that £55,000 would be handed over to Elgin BID for each of the next five years – assuming a successful ballot allowing the initiative to continue operating.
Opposition to the scheme is growing amongst Elgin businesses – however, with claims that the boundary has been redrawn to allow Tesco to enter the scheme, smaller businesses are demanding a rethink over the conditions under which the ballot is operated.
Voting on if the Elgin scheme continues will be subject to the rateable value of businesses in the catchment area rather than a single vote for each business.
Because of the superstore’s opposition to BID when it was formed five years ago the city centre boundary was drawn up to exclude Tesco.
Now Elgin BID say that they will discuss the concerns of smaller businesses at a board meeting this week following representations from several concerned business owners.
These include local funeral directors William Watson, for whom Mark Watson said: “Five years ago Tesco said they would not support BID – hence they were removed from the map by a fearful BID committee.
“Last month they asked to be added to the map because apparently they will now support BID. I was told that once a BID area had been established it could not be modified – this is clearly not the case, well not the case it would appear if a ‘big’ rateable value business has their way.
“I simply want to be treated equal to Tesco – if they can choose to be in, I can choose to be out.”
However, the manager of Elgin BID, Gill Neil, denied that Tesco requested to be removed from the BID boundary: “The first point to raise is that Tesco did not request to be removed from the boundary.
“They were never included within the first-term boundary. I have been back in touch with Mr Watson and explained that I have added his comments to the agenda for the board meeting on Thursday and I will get back to him early next week.”
At Tuesday’s policy and resources committee the leader of the council, Allan Wright, said it appeared to be a “big ask” that the local authority contribute a total of £365,000 to Elgin BID over five years.
However, on the condition that Elgin BID would place in their operating plan an acknowledgement that they would move towards self-financing status the funding was unanimously approved.